Hiranuma planning new party

by Masami Ito

Former Liberal Democratic Party heavyweight Takeo Hiranuma said Tuesday he and 16 fellow independent candidates hope to form a new political party after the Lower House election.

“We will run as independents in the upcoming election, and after the battle we will consider forming a political party,” Hiranuma told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

But Hiranuma’s ambition goes beyond forming a new party.

The Democratic Party of Japan is favored to win the Aug. 30 election and oust the LDP from power. But whether this happens or if the LDP wins, neither would probably be able to run the government on its own, and this is where Hiranuma hopes to step in.

His plan is to become an ally to one of the parties to help capture a majority, giving him the deciding factor.

“I am hoping to get as many of our 17 members a Diet seat as possible so our group can create some kind of third wave in the political world,” Hiranuma said. “Japan is in a national crisis, and I believe . . . our group can serve as the glue to stabilize politics.”

Although Hiranuma, a former trade minister, did not mention which party he intended to join hands with, he stressed that he went to campaign for LDP heavyweights Makoto Koga, who also heads the Japan War-Bereaved Association, and former Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa, also a known conservative.

It is also unlikely Hiranuma’s group would cooperate with the DPJ because the top opposition party just announced it plans to back a candidate to run against him in the Lower House election.

Hiranuma was one of the “postal reform rebels” who was not allowed to run on the LDP ticket in the 2005 election after opposing then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s plan to privatize the postal services. Although some of his fellow rebels, including Seiko Noda and Kosuke Hori, jumped at the chance to rejoin the LDP, Hiranuma remained independent.

Last month he launched the Hiranuma Group, made up of other conservative independents and ex-rebels, including former LDP lawmakers Minoru Kiuchi and Ryuji Koizumi.